So, just as it was foretold in these parts yesterday, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is now officially an All-Star. Congratulations are in order for Marc, as it was nice to see his all-around and all-important contributions on a nightly basis get recognized; it will be interesting to see him throwing fancy passes from the elbow in Orlando in a few weeks, to be sure.
For now though, Memphis sits again at .500 and outside of the West's top eight, but in the midst of a five-game home stand. Tonight, the Indiana Pacers, a young team growing up and making noise in the Eastern Conference, pay a visit with an All-Star center of their own.
That would be, of course, Roy Hibbert, who was also named as a reserve last night. In Gasol and Hibbert, the Pacers and Grizzlies have two of the last vestiges of the a traditional-form center in the NBA. Lumbering big men without the otherworldly athleticism of a Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan, but who can still throw up sky hooks and protect the rim effectively -- both rank in the top ten in blocks per game, with Gasol third and Hibbert seventh, respectively.
Hibbert stays connected to the paint, looking for touches as low as possible to put his deft feel around the basket to use, and alternatively, is a disruptive presence to opposing penetrators just by standing there. Gasol's skills are a bit more fine tuned, as he does like to float outside for spot-up jumpers and assist opportunities pretty consistently, before challenging shots and trying to get the break started on the other end.
Their match-up will be an important one in tonight's game, yet it wouldn't be surprising if their play cancelled each other's out, like two samurais who know their combatant's counterattacks all too well (except a slightly less nimble version of that). While it's unclear at this point if Tony Allen will play or not, our defensive pairings with the Pacers could be interesting. Rudy Gay and Danny Granger might just turn this into the world's biggest jump-shot battle, but Marreese Speights and whoever else Memphis uses on David West looks like it could be a potential problem spot; we'll see if West gets it going early on and what adjustments will be made, if necessary.
Otherwise, it's the same thing of late: Avoid that one absolutely terrible offensive quarter and there's no reason, at home, that the Grizzlies can't take out one of the East's up-and-comers. But they remain banged up, meaning that like Wednesday night, when it was Quincy Pondexter who provided the much-needed jolt of scoring, someone needs to get buckets. Tonight (or any night, I guess), it really doesn't matter who it is, so long as it happens.
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